Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1958. Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions. Screenplay by Alec Coppel, Samuel A. Taylor, based on the novel D’Entre Les Morts by Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac. Cinematography by Robert Burks. Produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Production Design by Henry Bumstead, Hal Pereira. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by George Tomasini. Academy Awards 1958.
One of the greatest films of all time and Hitchcock’s masterpiece. This impeccably shot, edited, costumed, scored, written and directed thriller about near-necrophiliac obsession features one of James Stewart‘s most powerful performances and Kim Novak‘s finest onscreen achievement. Stewart plays a private detective who gives up his job after a near-fatal fall leaves him with a terrible fear of heights. When a personal friend (Tom Helmore) asks him for one last favour before completely retiring, Stewart finds that he just can’t say no: Helmore asks him to follow his wife (Novak) around town and investigate her behaviour. He believes she is possessed by the ghost of a mysterious ancestor who committed suicide many years before, and now fears that she might do the same thing to herself. Stewart takes on the job, having no idea that observing the woman will soon come to interacting with her, followed by his being completely infatuated with her to the point of possible danger to himself. Among the most psychologically complex of the master director’s works, and certainly the most widely discussed by film scholars, the film was recently restored to its original glory by the team of Harris and Katz, who also did the same service recently to Lawrence of Arabia and My Fair Lady.